- Creating a Realistic Rendering PedagogyThe Fashion Illustration Problem
Achallenging but crucial step in the costume design process is creating the rendering. This drawn representation of the costume design can be a work of art, but it also must convey crucial information to the director and production team: namely, what is the costume and how will it fit the actor and the character? This can confound beginning designers, who often want to draw beautiful interpretations of their designs on the perfect model, which does not always reflect the actor. However, the body that wears the costume is an important part of the design process. In this paper, I explore the challenges and successes of creating a pedagogy focused on the costume designer's depiction of the actor's body in the rendering. For my costume rendering course, I created projects to challenge the student's sense of realistic representation versus artistic interpretation, and to address the value of rendering diverse bodies as part of the design process.
As the professor of costume design at the University of South Dakota, I teach undergraduate designers in the courses Costume Design and Advanced Costume Design. However, I was inspired to create a new course called Advanced Costume Rendering after observing that the costume design students were lacking in rendering body diversity and dynamic poses. Students were not considering the vastly different types of actor bodies, and most only had the confidence to render in a one-size-fits-all model. I noticed that undergraduate design students were not paying attention to the body wearing the costumes they had meticulously designed. They wrote thoughtful character analyses, but the character wasn't coming across on the rendering page. Instead, the costumes were rendered on fashion figures. Before the costume is added, the figure [End Page 40] drawn in the rendering must accurately convey the body shape of the actor and the attitude of the character through stance. This gives the director a real sense of how the costume will fit the actor and contribute to the audience's perception of the character. Because of these complexities in costume rendering, the simplicity of fashion illustration style is attractive to beginning designers. Fashion illustration represents an idealized drawing of the human form and does not display a developed character. Students are often drawn to the idealized human form and straightforward body positioning used in fashion illustration instead of rendering the actor's actual body type or expressive poses. Rendering this way is easier because once the designer masters drawing the idealized body, it can be repeated for each rendering instead of adjusting for individual actor size.
Teaching students the diversity of the human form and the importance of characterization in poses is an integral part of costume rendering. Students draw better representations of realized garments on actors when they first focus on the body, and character, that the costume is being put upon. A rendering curriculum needs to encourage students to celebrate actor body diversity and realize the importance of rendering the character to enhance their design concept. As the theatre community is seeing more productions that include and celebrate actors of all sizes and races, it is important that young designers learn to reflect that diversity at the planning stage of the design process. Costume designers should enter the professional world comfortable with rendering actors who look different from themselves or the ideal fashion body.
I decided to create a rendering course that would devote time to the body as part of the rendering. The objectives for Advanced Costume Rendering were to introduce students to the standard human form, encourage students to adjust for actor size, familiarize students with rendering diverse races, and promote dynamic character positioning in costume renderings. These objectives better familiarized students with the purpose of costume design versus fashion illustration and resulted in a closer study of the actor's body and character attitude as part of the design.
In my Costume Design 1 course, I noticed that beginning costume designers were often drawing tall, slender figures in neutral poses for every character they rendered. The students worked on unrealized paper projects without a cast, but the scripts...